On Marathon Monday, 27,000 registered runners, and thousands of unregistered runners, will take to the streets in Hopkinton, Massachusetts and pound the pavement for 26.2 miles to finish on Boylston Street in downtown Boston. As one of the oldest continuously-run marathons, the Boston Marathon is one of the hallmarks of running, the watermark for serious marathon competitors and a Boston tradition.
Boston is famous for the enthusiastic crowds that line every part of the course, especially along the infamous Heartbreak Hill – a 600-meter ascent between miles 20 and 21 - and the Wellesley Scream Tunnel, a decibel-breaking screamfest with signs made by hundreds of Wellesley University students at mile 13. An additional 8,000 volunteers will be on hand to deal with the logistics of the thousands of runners.
In the picture, last year's winners, Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot (Kenya), Teyba Erkesso (Ethiopia) and four-time winner Catherine Ndereba accept their bibs, with wheelchair-division winners Ernst Van Dyk and Wakako Tsuchida.
The 115 years of marathon have spawned dozens of legends and running greats. There’s 1970 winner Ron Hill, who set a course record on one of the worst weather days in marathon history, even though he didn’t wear a watch because of the “extra calories” it would cost him to carry the heavy metal band. Though he won't be competing on Monday, Hill, 72, still runs every day. Literally. Hill hasn’t missed a day of running since December 20, 1964. His unbroken running streak wasn’t even halted by a head-on car crash that broke his sternum into two separate pieces. Hill said he ran for eight days while feeling the two parts of his sternum rubbing against each other.
There’s also the “Iron Nun,” 80-year-old Sister Madonna Buder, who started running at age 47 after a priest suggested it for “spiritual enrichment.” Since then, she’s competed in over 300 races, including 40 Ironman Triathlons and countless marathons. Buder, who is the oldest female competitor, will be running her fourth Boston Marathon. “I’m trying to get [races] to start an 80+ division, because it didn’t seem fair [to compete with others in the 75+ age group],” Buder said on Saturday. “When I heard they had an 80+ division at Boston, I kind of felt obligated to run.” Her autobiography, The Grace to Race, was released in October.
When Wakako Tsuchida goes for her fifth win in the women’s wheelchair division, she doesn’t expect many people to be following her at home in Japan, where people are still distracted by the March 11 earthquake and the frequent aftershocks. “I can’t stop the earthquakes myself, but I can do what I do, which is compete,” said Tsuchida just two days before the Boston Marathon. A Tokyo resident, Tsuchida was already planning on traveling to hilly areas in Japan to train for Boston’s challenging inclines, but she pushed her travel up to leave Tokyo sooner amid concerns for additional earthquakes and nuclear contamination.
Tsuchida was joined on Sunday at a pre-marathon Champion’s Breakfast by 2007 men’s wheelchair division winner Masazumi Soejima, the only person able to break up nine-time men’s wheelchair winner Ernst Van Dyk’s consecutive victories, from South Africa. Like Tsuchida, he knows that this race will have added meaning given everything his country has gone through in the past few months. “If I win it will show everyone I’ve been trying very hard for them,” he said.
For more information about the competitors, check out the Boston Marathon Official Website.
The race starts at 9 AM on Monday. Watch live at universalsports.com